Travel Newsletter - 2 April 2021
A train ride across Kazakhstan, Abkhazia, the oldest sites in Bangkok, Lake Toba, São Paulo’s Asiatown, and more travel reads.
Greetings from Phu Quoc, Vietnam. I’m here this week researching some massive resort developments that are under construction. It’s crazy how much is going on here, I will be posting stories on Nomadic Notes and Future Southeast Asia.
I’m quite happy to be travelling around Vietnam, but I’m also keeping an eye on future travel developments. I mentioned last week that Taiwan would be a good option, and there is talk of flights resuming between Vietnam and Taiwan. And now Taiwan and Palau have launched a COVID-19 travel bubble. Palau would be a great way to celebrate restarting international travel by visiting a new country. The only problem is that Vietnam-Taiwan still requires quarantine, so it’s not a Vietnam-Taiwan-Palau travel tube.
I’m enjoying seeing friends on Facebook posting their vaccination shots (mostly American, and no Australians or Vietnamese yet). As with international travel, I have no prediction when a vaccination will be available for me here.
[Rehydration break in Phu Quoc.]
Where I’m At: April 2021 – Phu Quoc edition
Greetings from Phu Quoc and welcome to another edition of Where I’m At – rounding up my travels from the last month, and other news.
Where I’ve been
I’m still in Vietnam where the pandemic is under control. We have been living a relatively normal life here while waiting for the world to reopen. Until then I’ve been continuing my domestic travels.
March has been bookended by visiting two very different islands of Vietnam. I began the month in Con Dao, which is like no other island I’ve experienced in Southeast Asia. This former prison island and place of pilgrimage for Vietnamese is now becoming a destination in its own right for its natural beauty. Stay tuned for a full trip report about Con Dao.
When I’m in Saigon and not travelling, I start looking at projects that need some time to get done. One thing I have been putting off was the rebranding of Living In Asia. In case you aren’t on my newsletter (sign up here), I’ve moved my other site livinginasia.co to futuresoutheastasia.com. In the 20 years that I’ve been publishing websites, this was the first time that I’ve ever had to rebrand a site and move domains. Hopefully, it is the last time.
There are lots of fiddly things to do when moving a site, and there is no guarantee that the almighty Google is going to reindex your new domain immediately. It was a bit stressful, and I am not back to my old rankings yet, but it’s done now and I’m happy with the name change. Here is my post about the rebranding.
On March 14th it was the one-year anniversary of my flight back to Saigon during that crazy pandemic month of March 2020. I was in Thailand in the time, and I figured I should hunker down for the pandemic where I am already based.
I knew it was going to be a long haul, but my nomadic brain couldn’t comprehend the thought of being in one country for an entire year. It’s the longest I’ve been inside one country since 1998/99, when I was in Australia working hard before moving to London in 1999. And like this time last year, I don’t think I’m any closer to even hazarding a guess as to when I will cross the next border.
Vung Tau offers the easiest escape from Saigon if you want a quick getaway somewhere. There is a fast ferry that leaves from the District 1 riverfront, and just over 2 hours later you arrive in Vung Tau.
I’ve been there a few times, but never on the weekend as I did on this trip. Vung Tau is like a beach suburb of Saigon, and that was apparent on this trip. I’ve never seen it this crowded before.
This trip was mainly to do a construction report at Future Southeast Asia. Going on the weekend I was able to see that its weekend tourism trade is still going strong during the pandemic. I’ll also do a trip report here at Nomadic Notes.
Regular readers may recall that I was in Phu Quoc in January. That was the trip where I put my back out of place, and I cut my trip short to get it cracked back into place. Now I’m back to finish the story I wanted to cover. There has been a massive construction boom here, which was already becoming apparent during my first visit to Phu Quoc 6 years ago. I was prepared to see some new mega-resorts, but what I have seen so far is nothing like I’ve seen anywhere else. Whole new tourist towns are being built from nothing, and there are so many thousands of new homes that I don’t know how they will fill them all.
I’ve got a few more days where I will be riding around to more parts of the island, so expect a big blog post about Phu Quoc.
COVID-19 and travel (or lack thereof)
A vaccine passport is the new golden ticket as the world reopens
Is Thailand's Full Moon Party over for good?
As I travel around Vietnam to touristy places like Phu Quoc, I see countless closed hotels and tourism-related businesses. I wonder how many of these places will reopen, as well as such institutions like the Full Moon Party.
Assorted travel reads
Love, loss and celebration: take a soul-nourishing 7500km train ride across Kazakhstan
The war correspondent walking the world
“For the last eight years, journalist Paul Salopek has been walking around the world, tracing the ancient path of human migration.”
Heavy rain brought spectacular waterfalls to Australia’s most famous rock
“A rare deluge at Uluru attracted tourists, locals, and a whole lot of frogs.”
Would the pandemic stop Paul Theroux from traveling?
I saw this article via a Loius Theroux Tweet, who has emerged so far from his father’s shadow that I sometimes forget they are related.
I revisited some chapters of The Great Railway Bazaar recently after reading some average travel books. This book ends up on “best travel books” lists all the time, but I needed to go back to it to realise how good it is.
Abkhazia, ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ you might not be allowed to leave
Photographer travels Asia capturing the beautiful patterns emerging in everyday life
Bangkok’s Firsts: A journey to the city’s oldest sites
Secular pilgrims: why ancient trails still pack a spiritual punch
At Lake Toba as a digital nomad, the world’s largest volcanic lake
I spent a month at Lake Toba in 2009 doing the digital nomad shuffle. There was no wifi there at that point, so every day I would go to an internet cafe to check emails, upload work, and download pages to read. It was tedious, but totally worth it because, wow, what an incredible place.
São Paulo’s Asiatown: A little piece of Japan halfway around the globe
“São Paulo, Brazil, is home to one of the biggest Japantowns in the world. Here, descendants of Japanese migrants have created a unique culture, fusing their traditions with local ones. An influx of Chinese and Korean migrants has transformed the neighborhood into a multiethnic community.”
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- James Clark